The Mount Hood Ski Bum Camp

Meanwhile at Mount Hood: A crew of skiers live the dream, for free, in the woods

Bacon sizzles in the pan resting over the fire when I arrive at The Studio, a makeshift campsite at the base of Mount Hood, around 8 a.m. B-Mac and Tim McChesney are up early, cooking breakfast while Magnus Graner lounges in a hammock with his nose in a book. Karl Fostvedt hasn’t made it out of his tent yet. Today, these four woods-dwellers are living out another morning of the dream: bumming in the woods and skiing all summer long.

Every summer, skiers and snowboarders migrate by the thousands from across North America and internationally to spend the summer at Timberline Ski Area on Mount Hood. The ski campers come and go, as do the big-name pros, but the real die-hards—a fringe group of skiers and riders whose lives revolve around year-round shredding—stay from June until September, making it work one way or another.

There are many ways you can pull this off: score a job on the mountain, hopefully one that includes a free summer pass, and snag some affordable housing in Government Camp (good luck with that). Alternatively, forget the job, forget the rent, and invest your savings in a summer pass and a tent with a good rainfly.

Home, sweet home. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Home, sweet home. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Alex “Shuggs” Dorzynski is a master of the latter approach. The Tahoe-based 25-year-old with a shaggy mane has spent eight summers camping at Mount Hood since 2005, earning a reputation as one of the mountain’s most persistent itinerants. Together with partner-in-crime Zach Steele, Shuggs established a tree-fort encampment known as the Ewok Village, which lasted three seasons before its eventual detection and destruction by the U.S. Forest Service.

“It’s the epitome of ski bumming,” says Shuggs, who would hustle tall tees, bandanas, and ski gear to young racers and campers to earn enough cash to cover his minimal expenses. A liberal dig-to-ride policy let him hit the park in exchange for a few hours of work per week. “You don’t need a big bankroll to make it happen. It’s maybe not the most lavish lifestyle, but it keeps a smile on your face.”

Don't scald your legs, boys. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Don’t scald your legs, boys. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

The Studio, home to B-Mac, Magnus, and company, is located about a mile down the road from the former location of the Ewok Village. The campsite doesn’t have Ewok’s tree house architecture, nor the bohemian reputation of campsites like the Airstrip or the Graveyard, but it does feature a fully functioning editing studio in the woods. Okay, the editing studio isn’t much more than a plastic table sheltered by a huge tarp, supplied with power by a small generator. But the campsite is more than sufficient for B-Mac and Magnus to spend evenings here working on their personal video segments from the past season.

The two young Swedes are members of an influential Scandinavian ski crew called The Bunch, and they have achieved something like boy-band popularity in the insular world of underground film skiing. Both invested in expensive Timberline summer passes, and they are now focused on, as Magnus says, “trying to live as cheap as possible, in order to ski as much as possible.”

 Evening edit time at the Studio. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Evening edit time at the Studio. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

After wolving down bacon-and-egg breakfast sandwiches, The Studio’s residents rally for the hill. An action-packed day in the Windell’s Camp ensues, but the best part of the day might be jumping into the spring-fed, 34-degree Little Crater Lake, the campsite’s best way to stay clean. Hobo dinners over the fire, a mix of veggies and ground sausage seasoned and wrapped in aluminum foil, round out the evening. When the shadows creep in around the edges of the campfire, the guys hit the sack and get ready to ski and camp all over again tomorrow.

Disclaimer: Camping in the woods is not for everyone, but it’s a good character builder, so buck up and try it. Staying for longer than 14 days in one place in the Mount Hood National Forest is illegal. If you do choose to camp here, be respectful of your surroundings. Campers who turn into a nuisance aren’t well received by either the local populace or the local sheriff. Don’t blow the vibe for everyone else.

Magnus Graner handplants at Windell's, his campsite The Studio somewhere in the woods below. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Magnus Graner handplants at Windell’s, his campsite The Studio somewhere in the woods below. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Add a comment

  • the meme master general

    If it’s illegal, you just ratted them out mate

  • JNilla

    This is ill, livin the dream

  • god

    and these nice fellows leave all their trash bpr cans cig butt and even human excrement in the woods , so nice you could be in their corner powder

    • cbos

      Take your ignorant rant somewhere else. Almost have of the world doesn’t have access to a toilet, and who are you to say they don’t clean up after themselves…?

    • Bryan

      You mean PBR? How dare you haha.

  • Hackel

    hell yeah boys! liven it up

  • LendogPDX

    Just because you are returning to your camp after shredding all day, doesn’t mean you should leave all your shit out around your camp site. Square it up, make it look clean and attended to and we won’t think you are being disrespectful. You make it look like a homeless camp and a shit hole, you’re doing it wrong.

  • KC

    It’s legal to camp in national forest for 14days straight, after that you technically just have to move to a different spot…so you just switch your camp spot every 2 weeks. That being said, I’m local and they’re right about one thing in the article…we don’t take well to people trashing our forest so just dig a hole and bury your poop, pack out all your trash, be responsible with your camp fires, basically don’t be a dick and it’s cool ;) a lot of people use the old airstrip by Trillium to free camp, drive up to Timby or save gas and hitch up, everyone does it. I moved out here just because of year round snowboarding, been here for nearly 10 years now (in a house, not camping) still love it!!! Snowboarding doesn’t have to be seasonal…that’s a lifestyle choice. Come on out to OR and enjoy, just don’t squat like a dick and pack out your trash, bury those poops, that’s all we ask ;) FYI you can usually find summer jobs at Wyndells camp too if housing is more your style!

  • YouJackasses

    “Don’t blow the vibe for everyone else.”

    Yeah just publish this in a major journal. That helps a lot.

  • Cool breeze

    Actually these dirt bags put up a sign saying it is their private property in Brightwood just above the bridge on a floodway piece of property. Hardly stuff for Powder to commend.
    Shame in you powder.

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